As explained in my previous post, my parents are soon due to travel China for a few weeks. Following up on my previous blog on the beautiful Chinese city of Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors, my next Chinese Wandering Memory will focus on the Yangtze River cruise.
The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and presented a weary traveler the opportunity to just relax and chill out after some very long journeys. I really didn’t have that high expectations for this part of the trip; we had already explored the awe-inspiring Great Wall of China, walked through the majestic Forbidden City and seen the iconic Terracotta Warriors – what else was there?
Well little did I know that this journey would also be a tremendous experience. We boarded our boat just in front of the Three Gorges Dam. In all honesty I think I was a little tired to get inspired by the dam, and if I was to return I would like to see it a bit closer up. The most amusing memory I have of our guides introduction to the dam was, ‘if it was hit by a missile, it’s so stable that it wouldn’t break, however if it was hit by a nuclear warhead it probably would’. That was followed up by ‘although if it was hit by a nuclear warhead we would all drown!’ Of course the explosion and radiation wouldn’t kill us first! Anyhow that’s a very weird but funny memory. The other thing I do remember is that the dam actually provides a huge amount of hydroelectric power to the Chinese – which is a great renewable energy source.
Our boat was called the ‘Victoria 5’ and although referred to as a ‘cruise ship’, from first impression it resembled a dodgy little sail boat more. Remember though, first impressions are not always correct, and the boat that became our home for a few nights was actually very comfortable. I don’t bode well in rough waters but luckily they were unbelievably calm and took full advantage of the buffet, bar and top deck. Weather wise, we were very lucky and it was gorgeous – reaching into the mid 30’s (degrees centigrade) at numerous points during the day.
Whilst on the journey we passed through four locks that control the flow of water down to the dam. These locks are ginormous and eclipse those of the Panama Canal, holding at least 20 boats at one time. It took around 2 hours for us just to pass through and head upstream and towards the 3 Gorges.
The Gorges are the real highlight of this experience, it’s incredible how the shimmering green river meanders its way through the mountains, sheer cliff faces on both sides. There were a number of stops whereby we transferred to smaller speed boats to explore the inner caverns and estuaries that led into the Yangtze. These estuaries led to fascinating sites, one I vividly remember led us to a viewing of an ancient set of coffins all resting in caves hundreds of meters up the cliffs. It’s an incredible site, as they are completely inaccessible from the top or bottom. Its mind-blowing to think how these coffins got to these particular inaccessible ledges all those years ago. I am not even sure with the technology of today you could safely reach them.
On those excursions we also got to view the remains of some of the old towns that were destroyed when the dam project was put into place. As the water rose significantly, lots of local farms and villages were literally swallowed up. There are some urban myths that people who refused to leave their homes were just left to drown, but who knows if that is true! It is undoubtedly a segregated wilderness, so cut off from modern day society and it is just stunning.
The weather continued to be beautiful, gorgeous sunny days and very clear night sky’s led to a lot of chilling out.
Our final excursion was spent exploring Fengdu Ghost City, a collection of temples and shrines after we had exited the Gorges and close to Chongqing, A lot of stories and legends were told to us here, but essentially the Chinese believe that all Ghosts from all over the world come here to be judged for the afterlife. In all honesty I wasn’t a huge fan of this place, I expected it to have a creepy vibe, but really it looked more fake to me – with plastic statues and modernised attractions. Some of the original architecture, pagodas, dragon statues and staircases were quite impressive though.
These nights spent on the Yangtze River, you really got a feeling of the vastness and beauty that China has to offer. One day we were surrounded by daunting cliff faces and beautiful green waters, the next secluded villages surrounded by countryside. I doubt a lot of the people who lived around this area have even seen the westernised cities, they just life their day-to-day life’s like they always have. The Gorges were spectacular, but above all I loved the time spent with my group, we got to chat, relax and reflect on some of the wondrous things we had already experienced. Believe me a bit of reflection every now and again is a privilege. A glorious experience I would repeat upon any visit.
Yangtze Cruise as part of a bigger China trip – What are you waiting for!